Fox Business Network host Charles Payne has been suspended while
21st Century Fox investigates sexual harassment allegations made
against him, the company confirmed Thursday night.
Payne’s suspension was announced by Fox Business Network
following his program “Making Money,” and shortly after the Los
Angeles Times first reported the investigation.
“We take issues of this nature extremely seriously and have a
zero-tolerance policy for any professional misconduct,” a Fox
Business Network representative said in a statement. “This
matter is being thoroughly investigated and we are taking all of
the appropriate steps to reach a resolution in a timely manner.”
Payne, who hosts “Making Money” on the network and appears on
various other programs, has acknowledged what he described as a
three-year “romantic relationship” with a married female
political analyst who frequently appeared on Fox Business
Network and Fox News Channel from 2013 to 2016. Payne admitted
to the extramarital affair in a statement to the National
Enquirer published Wednesday that included an apology to his
wife, children and friends.
That relationship is now being reviewed after the woman
contacted Fox’s law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton &
Garrison last month to report her allegations of sexual
misconduct. The woman, who worked for CNN last year, had a
representative tell the firm she believed she was eventually
blackballed from the network after she ended the affair in 2015
and tried to report Payne to top executives at Fox News,
according to two sources familiar with her complaint.
The Los Angeles Times is not naming the woman because she
alleges that she was coerced into a sexual relationship with
Payne under threat of reprisals.
Neal Korval, an attorney representing Payne, said the anchor
“categorically denies” having committed any acts of sexual
harassment against the woman. Korval said Payne will respond to
the woman’s allegations in court if a complaint is served.
The woman was never an employee of Fox News, but appeared as a
guest across numerous Fox News and Fox Business Network programs
with the hope of becoming a paid contributor. She has told her
lawyer, who is preparing a legal complaint against Fox News and
Payne, that she stayed in the relationship because she believed
he would help her chances of landing a position at the network,
according to the sources.
Instead, the woman is alleging, after she ended the affair her
appearances were drastically reduced, the sources say.
Payne, 56, has worked at Fox Business Network since it launched
in 2006. Payne, who is also a Wall Street financial analyst,
recently signed a new contract with the business channel, which
has seen significant ratings growth over the last two years.
According to the sources, the woman told her lawyer that from
March 2015 to March 2016 she made several unsuccessful attempts
to discuss her situation with Payne with former Fox News
executive Bill Shine, who was head of programming at the time.
Shine left Fox News on May 1.
The allegations are the latest to hit 21st Century Fox, which
has been plagued by sexual harassment charges across several
units over the last year. Former Fox News anchor Gretchen
Carlson filed suit last year against the network's former chief
executive, Roger Ailes. Since then, several other women have
come forward with allegations against Ailes and other
Tamara Holder, a former Fox News contributor, received a
settlement from the company after alleging she was sexually
assaulted by an executive, Francisco Cortes, who oversaw the
network’s Spanish language operation. Holder never reported the
incident to legal authorities, but Cortes was fired.
The network’s star anchor, Bill O’Reilly, was pushed out in
April after reports that he and Fox had paid out millions to
settle harassment claims going back to 2004. Los Angeles radio
personality Wendy Walsh alleged that O’Reilly promised her a
position on his highly rated show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” if she
would have sex with him.
On Monday, Jamie Horowitz, a top executive at Fox Sports, was
fired amid harassment complaints.
Payne’s suspension came on the one-year anniversary of Carlson’s
lawsuit. On Thursday, she tweeted: “A year ago tdy I jumped off
a cliff w/o knowing what was below. Thx to all who supported me
& even 2 those who didn't. #BeFierce #SpeakUp.”
Debra Katz, an employment attorney in Washington who specializes
in sexual harassment cases, said the continued claims against
21st Century Fox show that the company still has work to do
despite numerous steps to improve its work environment since the
departure of Ailes.
“It seems the atmosphere was so poisoned with sexual harassment
that if you lift any rock you’re going to be able to find more,”
Katz added that she believes the company will continue to
aggressively address the matter — especially because 21st
Century Fox wants to complete its acquisition of European pay TV
giant Sky. The company is still waiting for British regulators
to approve the $15-billion transaction.
“It’s going to be a long road, but as long as Fox wants the Sky
deal to go through they are going to make every effort to deal
with these issues head on,” Katz said.